Old Town Christmas in Ballinger offers authentic Old West Christmas experience
It's just after dark on a 75-degree West Texas evening when the Christmas lights buzz to life in Old Town Christmas located at the The Last Chapter just south of Ballinger. A little over a month ago the place was overflowing with a massive pumpkin patch. Now, it's been transformed into Old Town Christmas, complete with a Christmas tree farm with 5 species of tree to choose from.
Walking through the gate is just the beginning of a journey down memory lane for many folks who come to take in Old Town. Christmas exhibits from the Grinch to Kris Kringle himself adorn the rooftops of the buildings that have been constructed, and are under construction.
"We have six of our planned 22 buildings already constructed. When we started all of this, we were going to put up facades, but we decided to go all the way and construct complete buildings," says co-owner Jonathan Smith.
The construction isn't just simply putting up a few boards and exhibits, it's fully authentic, using wood that is 100-years old and old-time construction techniques. Smith said that complete authenticity was never in question.
"We wanted to do it right. We have 14-acres here. We're building a boardwalk through the town, just like in the Old West. We want people to feel like they walked back in time."
We walk by a kiddie Christmas train that transports little tykes on the path through this town that looks like it jumped out of the pages of a Elmer Kelton novel. The ornaments around the town are handmade wooden ornaments, as with everything else, they're authentic.
The town currently boasts a Gunslinger cafe', water wheel, saloon, hotel, general store, and the workshop of a busy white-bearded gentleman who will soon be making the rounds on the night of Christmas Eve. The wooden toys are said to be constructed by elves on a large workbench in the workshop.
The General Store has candies and novelty treats of every variety, including cocoa bombs, decadent chocolate treats that immediately transport you back in time once you pour warm milk into them.
The town is more than just an homage to the Old West. They have livestock from chickens to cows, ducks, guineas, goats, and swine. The chickens and ducks have free rein, clucking and quacking away as they greet visitors. Walking through the place makes you feel as though you stepped through a doorway in time, to a more simple era, where gifts were created by hand, and not obtained by clicking on a link on a website.
There is an added effect as old Christmas songs play from speakers throughout the town, an effect that catches some visitors by surprise as they come in through the gates with one visitor excitedly exclaiming, "Is that snow?" Snowflakes glisten as they reflect the strings of lights along rooftops, a snow machine hard at work adding that authenticity to everything, "We can make any size flakes with the snow machine. People love it."
The snow evokes giggles that echo from 50-years ago as an older couple "ooh," and "aah," at the falling flakes, sticking their tongues out to catch the joy falling from the sky.
Kellie Book, whose family hails from Ballinger, owns the place and sells the tickets at the entrance, "We couldn't do this halfway. We had to do it all the way or not do it at all. We're putting a lot of money into this to make it successful. We're not building just for this year, we're building for years to come."
Old Town Christmas isn't a one-trick pony. As mentioned above, it was the pumpkin patch from September through Halloween. Now, it's Christmas, but Smith says there are bigger plans in the works, "We want to have a theme every season of the year. We want to be a place people come to throughout the year."
To this end, Smith and Book are creating Airbnb rooms on the spacious property. They also have field trips from Coleman, Grape Creek, and other schools throughout the area coming in.
"It's really about educating children about how things used to be, about the history of this area that has always been centered around agriculture," Smith remarks.
Santa himself is available on weekends with the Grinch also on-hand to greet visitors.
What to know: Old Town Christmas. 8601 US Highway 67, Ballinger. They're open daily from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for children aged 5-12. They also offer season passes. For more information, call 800-278-1898.